Here’s the last bit from Hayek’s Dec 11 1974 Nobel Prize lecture:
If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants. There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success”, to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society – a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.
One of the recurring themes of Hayek’s was the idea that social engineering is quite distinct from engineering of the natural world. With the appropriate technology and scientific knowledge it is possible to engineer machines and use them to control the world of objects, perhaps for the better, but human beings are not objects without volition. Humans have a will of their own and they pursue ends that are dictated by their desires and preferences which are neither fixed nor can be known by others. Social engineering always fails and makes a bad situation worse.
So why do so many people want to undertake an impossible task? I believe H. L. Mencken had the answer. “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” Every one of them — Gandhi, Nehru, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, you name any great socialist leader — cloaked their naked lust to rule and to exercise tyrannical power over others by vehemently insisting that they only want to help humanity.
People, in their desperation, naturally tend to believe their demagoguery and voluntarily give up their freedom in the hope of escaping their misery. That’s tragic because freedom is the only asset people have, and without freedom they have absolutely no hope of salvation. It’s the worst sort of gamble, like when a poor person uses all his meager possessions to buy lottery tickets.
I think the only way to escape this trap is for the people to realize that their most precious possession is their freedom, and to never trade even the littlest bit of it for any amount of promised wealth.
Anyway, let’s discuss what’s on your mind. Ask me anything. Let me start off with the first question: Why did I put that famous quote of Gandhi at the top of this post?
Answer: In general people are quite ignorant of what a terrible man M. K. Gandhi was. But that aside, too many people mindlessly parrot stuff they believe Gandhi said or wrote. They approvingly quote Gandhi, “An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind.” That really idiotic as I have explained here (The Unbearable Silliness of Loving One’s Enemy):
The old eye-for-an-eye thing of the Bible. Gandhi noted that that strategy would make the whole world blind. My analysis suggests that it would have the opposite effect. If you can guarantee that anyone who pokes anyone else’s eyes will have both his eyes poked out, everyone would think a million times before they give in to the temptation of poking anyone’s eyes out. In a Gandhian world, people who enjoy poking people’s eyes would have a terrific old time and a good number of people will have to go through life blind or at least semi-blind. In the non-Gandhian world, no rational person will find it beneficial to poke anyone’s eyes out.
That eye for an eye thing is the sort of nonsense that Gandhi was given to. Superficiality was his specialty. But sometimes reasonable statements are misattributed to him. Gandhi is supposed to have said or written, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Quotes Investigator did its bit and concluded that Gandhi did not say that.
In conclusion, QI has located no substantive support for ascribing the saying to Mohandas Gandhi. QI believes that the statement evolved from a large family of sayings that originated in the nineteenth century. In 1918 a closely similar remark emerged in a speech by Nicholas Klein, a union representative. Gandhi discussed stages that a movement passes through in a collection of writings he published in 1921, but his words did not really match the target expression.
How about that brilliant “Be the change you want to see in the world”? No, though widely reported, Gandhi did not say that either. Quotes Investigator again concluded, “Arleen Lorrance should receive credit for the expression she wrote 1974.”
What’s not widely reported are the idiotic things Gandhi did write, such as advising Hindus to commit suicide instead of resisting Islamic terror, and Jews to also commit suicide instead of resisting the Nazis. So that’s that.